Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A reply to Elliot Rodger

Yes, I know last time I said next time I would be doing something about social constructionism. It’s about halfway done, I guess. I may even have time to finish it soon. It’s becoming apparent that I need to change my blogging style, seeing as I’m now posting less than once a month. But then this thing happened where Elliot Rodger killed a bunch of women for not having sex with him (and also some men for having sex with them instead), and there’s something I have to say about it before it fades to just another entry on the long list of American mass killings. Elliot Rodger is dead now, but I feel I need to say this directly to him. Content note: violence, misogyny, suicidal thoughts.
Elliot, I’ve read some excerpts from your “manifesto”. I see that, at age 22, you’ve yet to have any romantic or sexual encounters, and that this is hurting you and making you feel twisted up inside and you’re desperately wondering what’s wrong with you. Your school years were a litany of bullying and rejection and loneliness, punctuated by scorn from attractive girls. As a teen you were scared and repulsed by your own sexual feelings, but you found you couldn’t block them by willpower. I gather also that you’ve been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as they’re calling it now. And the first thing I want you to know is that every one of those things is true of me too – except my ASD wasn’t diagnosed until I was 27.
And the second thing I want you to know, Elliot, is that I’ve never killed anybody. I felt the same anger and despair you feel, and there was a point where I might quite likely have tried to kill myself except a favourite uncle of mine happened to die, in middle age, of a respiratory disease about that time, and I saw the grief death causes, and I knew it would be wrong to inflict that on my family again. Never, ever, ever did I want to punish innocent people for my suffering. Never. Not once. It never so much as crossed my mind to think that might improve any aspect of the situation.
Now you might look at that and tell me it’s because I’m weak, because I’m not the man you are. Well, let me tell you a secret, Elliot. The whole “perpetual virgin” thing turned out not to be so perpetual after all. I had sex for the first time at a New Year’s music festival a few weeks before my 23rd birthday. Yes, that’s right, I was 22. Just like you. Maybe if you’d waited? No, let’s not kid ourselves, Elliot. You would have had to do more than wait. For one thing – that thing I hear you’ve been saying where women pick “obnoxious” men over “the perfect gentleman”, that being you? Perfect gentlemen don’t pick up guns and kill people for not having sex with them. That’s actually kind of the epitome of “obnoxious”, really. You are not a “nice guy”. Women are not rejecting you for not being a “bad boy”. My guess at what’s turning them off you? You could start with the monstrous sense of entitlement emanating so strongly from your manifesto that I could just about smell it through the computer screen.
While I’m writing this I’m trying to picture how you’d respond if you were really here. I can’t run the scene through my head without you interrupting me demanding to know what I did at the music festival, what magic trick I pulled. Well, I was wearing a kilt at the time, so there’s that. But I wasn’t actually out looking for sex. I was just there to enjoy the kind of music I like. And one woman there found me attractive, and she let me know that, and things progressed from there. I can’t say I played a very active role, because I couldn’t quite believe what was happening, and I know you’ll understand that, at least.
One difference between me and you, Elliot, is that I never made the mistake of turning to the MRA scene for answers. I gather you first turned to those guys who call themselves “Pick-Up Artists”, yes? And when you found out their so-called “game” was bullshit, which, well obviously, instead of saying “These people must be wrong about women,” you decided it was “Women are even more hateful than these people think.” You bought into a seething subculture of hatred and entitlement. You hated women because you couldn’t “have” any. I succeeded where you failed because I always knew women were not mine to “have”.
I’m serious. It’s too late to tell you this, but any still-living MRA can take it from me. Sex is not a right you or anyone has. No-one ever owes anyone else sex that they do not want to give, ever, under any circumstances, for any reason. I don’t know whether, by the end, you were still the “Pick-Up Artist” kind of MRA and thought you were entitled to sex from any woman you wanted, or whether you’d become the “Good Old Masculine Values” kind of MRA and thought you were entitled to sex from one particular woman any time you wanted for life. Either way you were wrong. Sex is a privilege, every time. Not wanting to have sex with you doesn’t make her “spoilt” or “stuck-up” or “evil” or “brutal” or “depraved” or “abusive” or anything else except a person with the same rights as all the rest of us.
But I’ve a feeling I’m wasting my words, and not just on you, Elliot, where that’s kind of obvious, but on the other MRAs too. I don’t think they’re listening to me. I think as soon as I started talking about women’s rights, they stopped listening. The moment you align yourself with feminism, a whole lot of people – including you, I think I can safely guess – decide you must “hate men”. After that you might as well be talking to a rock. Funny, that. A woman calls herself a feminist. Does she hate men? She must, mustn’t she? A man kills seven people outside a sorority leaving a manifesto declaring his hatred for women. Does he hate women? Well, now, we can’t jump to conclusions...
A lot of people think there’s something wrong in your brain, Elliot. I don’t doubt there is, but I think the name of what’s wrong in your brain is “hatred”. We know hatred can do this to people. Half the history of the twentieth century is hatred doing this to people. We know it can be culturally transmitted, too, I don’t think there’s a gene for Jew-hate floating around in the German population. Insofar as anyone but yourself is to blame for your actions, it’s those who taught you to hate women. Which is as much as to say, those who taught you that you were entitled to women’s bodies just because you wanted them. MRA culture shares your guilt. Rape culture shares your guilt. Patriarchy shares your guilt.
Many people’s first response— No, let’s be honest. Many men’s first response to your little rampage was to rush around telling women that not all men are like you. Which didn’t need saying, because it isn’t the point, and it’s not why I’m writing this. I may say I’ve seen a few commentators around the internet this week who could have benefited from the insight that not all ASD people are like you, but that’s not why I’m writing this either. My purpose in writing this is to say to you and to everyone who talks like you:
You do not speak for me. I am a man. I have ASD. I have, in the past, had difficulty relating to women. And you do not speak for me.

7 comments:

  1. You are an amazing man at that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world. <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. very well said. the "man hating" stigma against feminism is so very obviously silly, but so many people still parrot it! unbelievable. thank you for your amazing insight.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Entitlement is the conversion of an Envy into an Injustice.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You people are very kind. Honestly, it's one thing to write stuff that looks wise, quite another to apply it. For instance, when I say I always understood women were not "mine", I'm telling the truth... but I only learned how to convey that vital understanding by dint of trial and shameful, shameful error. (Intention is not magic.)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you so much for writing this. For such a long time I was reading disturbing responses to this event by other men who praised Elliot's actions and agreed with his ideas that women shouldn't be allowed to make their own decisions for themselves because it would push men to do these kinds of things. I saw male acquaintances on Facebook applaud Elliot and wish that things like this could happen more often so women could be "taught a lesson". It is sad that so many men feel this way, because they think that they are the only ones in the female-male relationship that go through this. I know so many other women who have the same problem, but keep their head up and hope to find the "good guys". Maybe it's because of society and the culture we live in encouraging girls to keep pushing through their problems and insecurities to find their "prince charming" and because of the lack of encouragement from similar movies geared toward young boys.
    Either way, our culture is definitely a problem and it will take a lot of understanding and compassion like yours to get through it. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and understanding of this, and never giving up on the compassion and possibility of love and respect from other human beings. It terrified me after reading other men's responses to Elliot's actions, as I was scared to meet or be with or break up with another guy because I didn't want to generate that sort of response from them. And after fearing that, I became even more scared that my inability to let guys into my life would also cause this sort of response. But again, reading this re-established my hope for humanity and the ability to have compassion for others. I know you may never read this and that we may never have a conversation face-to-face, but thank you for making it possible for me to sleep a little easier at night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear you've been scared. I'm pleased that my writing has helped you feel even a little bit better.
      I can do no better than speculate on what elements in our culture are risk factors for hatred, but I'm afraid I'm pretty sure it goes deeper than movies. A few biological facts must be part of the mix -- cis men don't get pregnant and therefore don't always understand why sex is something women don't rush into -- but that can't be the end of it. Misogyny seems to be eroding slowly under pressure from feminism; of course we all wish it would disappear faster. If it was purely a consequence of biological facts, it wouldn't be budging. On the other hand if it was merely a matter of stories and images in the culture, then I'd expect it to have shifted much faster than, in fact, it has. I wish I could say I'd found a way to make men who talk the way you describe realize they want to go home and re-think their lives, but I haven't.
      Still, thank you for your kind words. If I've made someone feel a little bit better, then at least my writing is having some good effect.

      Delete